Just for Kids Law welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court in Jogee. Just for Kids Law was one of two organisations which intervened in the case, along with Jengba (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association). We did not act for either of the parties (Jogee or Ruddock), and our intervention was not based on the facts of these cases.
We intervened because in our experience of representing young people in the criminal justice system we have seen a huge increase in young people charged and convicted of joint enterprise offences over the last 10 years. It has been disproportionately used against young, black men – leading to miscarriages of justice.
Francis FitzGibbon QC of Doughty Street Chambers (who led the team of pro bono barristers for Just for Kids Law) said:
‘This decision marks a sea change in a highly controversial area of law. It corrects an historic mistake in the law of joint enterprise, which until now had exposed people to being found guilty of the most serious offences on the weakest legal basis. The effect of the Supreme Court’s decision is that a member of a group cannot be found guilty of an offence unless there is proof that he or she positively intended that it should be committed. Mere foresight of what someone else might do is not enough. This will have a huge impact on the young and vulnerable clients that Just for Kids Law represents, who can find themselves unwittingly drawn into dangerous situations, and will now get better protection from the law.’
Just for Kids Law director Shauneen Lambe said:
‘In the last 10 years, Just for Kids Law has seen a rapid increase in children being charged and convicted of the gravest of offences, including murder, under the controversial extended principle of joint enterprise, which means that they did not even have to intend an offence to happen to be found guilty of it. This has led to numerous miscarriages of justice – with vulnerable and learning-disabled children locked up for crimes that they did not intend to happen nor were they directly involved in.
‘We are currently preparing an appeal for a young boy who was convicted with four others of murder. Our client has learning difficulties and ADHD. CCTV footage played to the jury shows him exiting the building at the same time as another teenager brings in a knife. Despite this, he was convicted of murder under the principle of joint enterprise. He is now serving a life sentence for a killing which he was not present at and nor did he intend. There are many other cases like his.’
Just for Kids Law’s evidence to the Supreme Court against the expanded use of joint enterprise included research by Dr Ben Crewe, from Cambridge University Institute of Criminology, demonstrating the disproportionate way that joint enterprise is used to convict young black men of serious crimes.
– A 16-prison study by Dr Crewe of men convicted on the basis of joint enterprise found white prisoners were under-represented, while the percentage of black prisoners was three times higher than in the general prison population.
The study found: ‘38.5 per cent [of joint enterprise prisoners] self-declared as white, compared to 72.4 per cent in the general male prison population, while 37.2 per cent self-declared as black/black British, a figure that is almost three times the proportion of black/black British prisoners in the general prison population (12.8 per cent).’ (‘Joint Enterprise: The implications of an unfair and unclear law,’ 2015, Ben Crewe, et al, Criminal Law Review 249, 261.)
– The same 16-prison study by Dr Crewe also found that nearly one in five of those convicted on joint enterprise was 18 or younger when sentenced; all of them were age 25 or younger.
Just for Kids Law was represented in the case pro bono by Doughty Street barristers Francis FitzGibbon QC, Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Daniella Waddup; and Garden Court’s Joanne Cecil. Our in house lawyer was Jennifer Twite.